The house is everything you always wanted: sunny, close to school and work, around the corner from your favorite cafe. You are ready. You make an offer, hold your breath—and it is accepted! Now comes the chaotic ride between the flurry of activity of the inspection contingency and what feels like empty torturous waiting until closing.
Let’s back up for a moment. When you are preparing an offer on the property, make a mental list of any readily-visible issues that would be an absolute deal breaker for you. You don’t have to hunt for them, that is the inspector’s job, but if there are any red flags that you could not look past, discuss with your Realtor how to write them in to your offer contract. That way the offer would only be accepted if addressing your issue is acceptable to the seller. This will save everyone’s time and spare you the stress of anguishing over a non-starter.
Once your offer on this wonderful home has been accepted, one of the very first items on your to-do list is the home inspection. Your Realtor can suggest several licensed Home Inspectors that she has worked with and found to be reliable. Call a couple and ask some questions, see who you feel comfortable with and who will provide the type(s) of inspection you need, preferably in one trip. Many homeowner’s insurance companies require a Wind Mitigation inspection and a 4 Point inspection before issuing a policy. It is a good idea to speak with your carrier to discuss requirements and then set up the inspection appointment. It is also a good idea to get a pest inspection. This is Florida, after all. If possible, set up all inspections for the same day to facilitate access to the property.
Reports are usually generated very quickly. Be prepared: it is the inspector’s job to find every nit-picky thing they possibly can. They want you to be heading into this homeownership thing with your eyes open. To be honest, the report can be daunting, plunging you into the panic of ‘what have I gotten myself into?’ and often ‘how can this thing still be standing? they should just demolish it’.
Remember – the only thing you can’t fix about a house is the location (and there are ways around that too if you’ve got the means). Everything can be fixed, but that doesn’t mean you have to. Review the list with your Realtor. She will help you determine if there are any significant discoveries or safety hazards that the seller might be willing to repair or provide a credit for part of the cost. The cosmetic stuff is your homework—that is the on-going task of loving your home: the sprucing, the maintaining, the renovating. It is important to be honest with yourself and your Realtor about how much and what kinds of work you are really interested in doing. However, these things do not directly affect the sale of the home.
Do not be intimidated by plumbing and electrical systems. Often these elements are updated only as part of a larger renovation. If they are old, but functioning, don’t sweat it. You might want to set up a little savings account for the future, planning ahead to tackle upgrades as you can afford to make them, being sure to focus on the things that will have the biggest impact on your daily enjoyment of life in the home. Like wine, houses improve with age. Older homes (while they may require a bit of initial renovating or updating, are often built more solidly and with better materials than are cost-effective to use today. They often have unique character and personalities. Embrace them. And keep in mind, even brand new homes will still produce a lengthy inspection report.
Once you have determined whether there are any issues that need to be addressed and discussed strategy with your Realtor, the negotiation process will resume. You have to know your bottom line. What is worth losing the house over? Keep in mind, there is a shift in perspective between home buyer and home owner. In the event that your Realtor is reluctant to present repair requests because the issues are minor, trust her. When focusing on the list of issues, something may feel like it will drive you crazy, but once you move in, you stop seeing it and may never think about it again.